Grow Onions in Virginia: Expert Tips & Tricks for Success

Welcome to our guide on growing onions in Virginia! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener looking to expand your onion crop or a beginner trying to grow onions for the first time, we’ve got you covered. Onions are a staple in many Virginia households, and growing your own can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to add flavor to your meals. In this article, we’ll share expert tips and tricks for growing onions successfully in Virginia. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right onion varieties to dealing with common pests and diseases. Let’s get started!

Choosing the Right Onion Varieties for Virginia

When it comes to growing onions in Virginia, choosing the right variety is critical to your success. With so many different types of onions available, it’s important to select those that are best suited to the growing conditions in Virginia.

Short-day Onion Varieties

Short-day onions are a great choice for Virginia gardeners. They require only 10-12 hours of sunlight per day to form bulbs, making them well suited for the shorter days of the fall and winter growing seasons. Short-day varieties that are recommended for Virginia include Red Creole, Texas Early Grano, and Yellow Granex.

Intermediate-day Onion Varieties

Intermediate-day onions require 12-14 hours of sunlight per day to form bulbs, making them a good choice for those who want to grow onions in the spring and summer. Some of the intermediate-day varieties recommended for Virginia include Candy, Sierra Blanca, and Valencia.

Long-day Onion Varieties

Long-day onions require the most amount of sunlight to form bulbs, between 14-16 hours per day. They are best grown in cooler climates with long summer days, such as the northern parts of Virginia. Some long-day varieties suitable for Virginia include Cabernet, Red Wethersfield, and Walla Walla.

Ultimately, the choice of onion variety depends on the specific growing conditions in your area and your personal preference. Be sure to select varieties that are best suited to your climate and soil conditions, and you’ll be sure to have a successful onion harvest in Virginia.

Planting Onions in Virginia: Best Practices

Growing onions in Virginia can be a rewarding experience with a little care and attention. When planting onions in Virginia, it is important to consider the best time to plant them, soil conditions, and onion planting tips for Virginia.

Best Time to Plant Onions in Virginia

The best time to plant onions in Virginia is in the fall or early spring. Onions can tolerate frost and can be planted as soon as the ground is workable in the spring. Fall planting should be done four to six weeks before the ground freezes, allowing sufficient time for the onions to establish their roots before winter.

Soil Conditions for Growing Onions in Virginia

Onions grow best in well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If the soil is too acidic, add lime before planting. On the other hand, if the soil is too alkaline, add sulfur to lower the pH. Additionally, adding organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure can improve soil structure and fertility, leading to healthier onion growth.

Onion Planting Tips for Virginia

When planting onions in Virginia, it is important to plant them in an area that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Onions should be planted ½ inch deep and 3-4 inches apart, in rows spaced 12-18 inches apart. Water the onions well after planting and keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season, but avoid overwatering which can lead to disease. You can also mulch around the onions to help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

With these onion planting tips for Virginia, you can successfully grow a bountiful harvest of delicious onions!

Caring for Onions in Virginia

Once your onions have been planted, they will require some attention to ensure they grow healthy and strong. Here are some tips to keep your onions in top shape:

  1. Watering: Onions need consistent moisture to grow properly, but be careful not to overwater as this can lead to rot. Aim to water deeply once a week, or more frequently during hot, dry spells.
  2. Fertilizing: Onions benefit from a balanced fertilizer applied every four to six weeks. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, as this can result in too much leaf growth and smaller bulbs.
  3. Weed Control: Keep an eye out for weeds and remove them regularly, as they compete with your onions for nutrients and water.
  4. Removing Scape: Onions may produce a flower stalk known as a scape. It’s best to remove this to redirect the plant’s energy towards the bulb instead of the flower.
  5. Insect Control: Keep an eye out for common onion pests such as onion maggots, thrips, and onion root maggots. If you notice any signs of infestation, apply an appropriate insecticide or pesticide.
  6. Disease Management: Ensure proper air circulation and avoid overhead watering to prevent fungal diseases such as onion downy mildew and onion white rot. If you notice any signs of disease, remove infected plants immediately.

By following these tips, you can help your onions thrive and produce a bountiful harvest.

Harvesting Onions in Virginia

Harvesting onions in Virginia requires a bit of patience and attention to detail, but the reward is worth it. When the leaves of your onion plants begin to droop and turn yellow, it’s time to start the harvesting process.

Start by loosening the soil around the base of each onion with a garden fork. Gently pull the onions out of the ground, taking care not to damage the bulbs.

After harvesting, allow the onions to dry in a warm, well-ventilated area for a few days. Once the outer layer of skin is dry and papery, trim the roots and leaves off and store the onions in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

Remember, onions can be stored for several months if properly cured and stored. So don’t be afraid to harvest them all at once if you have the space to store them.

Dealing with Common Onion Pests in Virginia

Onion pests can wreak havoc on your crops if left unchecked. Here are some of the most common onion pests in Virginia and what you can do to keep them under control:

Pest Symptoms Control Measures
Onion maggot Yellowing leaves, stunted growth, maggots in bulbs Apply row covers, treat with spinosad or pyrethrin insecticides
Thrips Silver-gray streaks on leaves, distorted growth Use reflective mulch, treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil
Slugs Holes in leaves, slime trails Handpick and remove, apply diatomaceous earth or slug bait

In addition to these pests, onion maggots and thrips can also spread diseases. To prevent the spread of disease, remove infected plants immediately and avoid planting onions in the same location for at least three years.

Regularly inspect your onion plants for signs of pests and diseases. Early detection and intervention can help you keep your crops healthy and productive.

Managing Onion Diseases in Virginia

While growing onions in Virginia can be a rewarding experience, it’s important to be aware of potential diseases that can affect your crop. Here are three common onion diseases in Virginia:

Name Symptoms Prevention and Treatment
Downy Mildew Yellow or brown lesions on leaves, stunted growth Plant disease-resistant onion varieties, space plants to improve air circulation, apply copper-based fungicides
Purple Blotch Purple or yellow lesions on leaves, sunken spots on bulbs Plant disease-resistant onion varieties, maintain soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5, practice crop rotation, apply fungicides early in the season
Botrytis Leaf Blight Brown spots on leaves, gray mold on bulbs Plant disease-resistant onion varieties, practice crop rotation, maintain soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5, avoid overhead watering, apply fungicides early in the season

It’s important to monitor your onion plants closely for any signs of disease. If you notice any symptoms, take action immediately to prevent further spread and protect your crop. By following prevention and treatment methods specific to each disease, you can help ensure a healthy onion harvest.

Extending the Onion Season in Virginia

As summer fades and fall approaches, it’s time to start thinking about extending your onion harvest in Virginia. One way to do this is by planting different varieties that have different maturity dates. Instead of planting all your onions at once, consider staggering your plantings throughout the growing season.

You can also plant onions in containers that can be moved indoors as the weather turns colder. This allows you to continue harvesting fresh onions well into the fall and even winter.

Planting Onions for a Second Harvest

If you’re looking to extend your onion harvest into the winter months, consider planting onions for a second time in mid-summer. Choose onion sets or plants that mature quickly and have a shorter growing season. This will allow you to harvest them before the first frost.

Alternatively, you can plant onions in a greenhouse or a cold frame. This will give you an early start on the growing season and allow you to harvest fresh onions during the winter months.

Storing Onions for Extended Shelf Life

Another way to extend the onion season is by storing your harvested onions properly. Onions can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to six months. You can also store them in a refrigerator or freezer to extend their shelf life even further.

Before storing your onions, make sure to dry them thoroughly and remove any dirt or debris. Leave the tops on the onions to help keep them fresh and store them in a mesh bag or crate to allow for air circulation.

By following these tips and tricks, you can enjoy fresh onions from your garden for months to come!

Conclusion: Growing Onions Successfully in Virginia

Congratulations! You now have all the information you need to grow onions successfully in Virginia. Remember, the key to successful onion growth is choosing the right variety, planting at the correct time, and providing adequate care and attention throughout the growing season.

By following the tips and tricks outlined in this article, you can enjoy a bountiful onion harvest, free from common pests and diseases. Don’t forget to extend your onion season by planting in the fall and using protective covers during the winter months.

Now, get out there and start planting your onions! With a little time and effort, you’ll have a pantry filled with delicious, homegrown onions.


Q: What are the best onion varieties to grow in Virginia?

A: When growing onions in Virginia, it is best to choose varieties that are well-suited to the local climate. Some recommended onion varieties for Virginia include Candy, Red Zeppelin, and Walla Walla.

Q: When is the best time to plant onions in Virginia?

A: The ideal time to plant onions in Virginia is in early spring, around March or April. This allows the onions to establish roots before the hot summer months.

Q: What are the soil conditions required for growing onions in Virginia?

A: Onions require well-draining soil with a pH level of around 6.0 to 6.8. The soil should also be enriched with organic matter and have good fertility.

Q: Any tips for planting onions in Virginia?

A: When planting onions in Virginia, it is important to space them properly and ensure they are planted at the correct depth. Onions should be spaced about 4-6 inches apart and planted with the tip just above the soil surface.

Q: How should I care for onions in Virginia?

A: Onions in Virginia require regular watering, especially during dry periods. Weeds should be kept under control to prevent competition for nutrients. It is also beneficial to provide a layer of mulch around the onions to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Q: When should I harvest onions in Virginia?

A: Onions in Virginia are typically ready for harvest when the tops start to turn yellow and fall over. This usually occurs around late summer or early fall.

Q: What are some common onion pests in Virginia, and how can I deal with them?

A: Common onion pests in Virginia include onion thrips and onion maggots. To deal with these pests, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray. It is also helpful to practice crop rotation and remove any affected plants.

Q: How can I manage onion diseases in Virginia?

A: Onion diseases in Virginia can be managed by practicing good sanitation, such as removing infected plants and debris. It is also advisable to avoid overhead watering and provide proper air circulation to prevent fungal diseases.

Q: Are there any ways to extend the onion season in Virginia?

A: To extend the onion season in Virginia, you can plant onion sets or transplants at different times throughout the growing season. This will result in staggered harvests and a longer onion season.

Q: Can you provide a conclusion on growing onions successfully in Virginia?

A: Growing onions successfully in Virginia requires choosing the right onion varieties, planting them at the appropriate time and in suitable soil conditions, providing proper care and protection against pests and diseases, and knowing when to harvest. By following these tips and tricks, you can enjoy a bountiful onion harvest in Virginia.